“2018… a year in reflection”

Jan 1

i am a little over 3 years old (from my “coming out”) yet i’m not even a year old (from my rebirth) and in this time span i’ve transitioned, struggled, cried more tears than ever before and felt an incredible sense of joy and happiness… i now know the joy of being the woman i always dreamed and prayed i would be…. i look in the mirror everyday now and see the smile and reflection i always prayed i would see…. yet there are times and days that my tears continue to flow….. so where am i today…. who am i today….

there is not a day that passes that i do not give thanks for the gift of being tess yet there is never a day that passes that i’m reminded of what i am, transgender.. do we all live within this chaotic rhythm of trying to maintain a balance in our new life and the gender assigned to us at birth…

i sit alone in a my chair, a chair that i sat in for countless mornings struggling to understand, learning how not to cry but instead to smile…. and today i sit and reflect over this past year, a year filled with growth and dreams fulfilled…. 

i have a photo on my dresser that i look at everyday and smile at… i took that photo on the morning of my gender reassignment surgery…. it’s my favorite photo i’ve ever taken of myself because i will never forget the joy i held in my heart, at that moment, knowing that in just a few hours a dream i held all my life would be fulfilled… it’s all there in that smile and the look in my eyes…. how many times do i lose myself in thought reliving the excitement i felt as i was being prepped for my surgery….. those nine days that i spent in Greenbaum Surgical Hospital were so beautiful, and often i wish i could return to my hospital bed so that i could relive the joy i felt during my stay there…. After that surgery, for the first time, i really not only felt, but believed my body was that of a woman…. and now that all my surgeries are over my body can finally heal… and in these past three years i’ve put an incredible amount of stress on my body while i transitioned….  emotionally and physically this has been so hard on my body…. i often think, is the hardest part of transitioning over, or does it really never end…. i always felt that transitioning literally sucked the life out of me and now i just want to live the life i’ve always dreamed of living…. finally i am doing that in so many ways and in that sense i believe there is an end to your transition….

if i was to pick a favorite part of each and every day in my new life it would have to be standing in front of my bathroom mirror every morning doing my makeup….  i not only love these moments but i also treasure this simple process, for it’s a process that validates that yes i am a woman… it’s mo longer the act that i did countless times behind a locked door with shame and fear…. i did that for a lifetime in my youth as i sat on that little wooden chair in front of my mother’s vanity or i stood before a bathroom mirror… i smile because today that vanity sits in “my” bedroom and i’m allowed to sit there any time i want without feeling any guilt or frustration…. this ritual of doing my makeup i love… i love the scent of my powder as i apply it to my face, the feel of my makeup brushes on my now feminine complexion…. i treasure every single bit of this… these are the precious moments that i cried just to be able to enjoy and i pray,  i pray i never take this gift for granted because i will never let myself forget all those countless times i silently walked by cosmetic counters in my life time, feeling my heart ache with a pain and frustration that simply ripped me apart… 

sometimes when i’m out running my daily errands i will find myself looking at a certain storefront…. the store is
“Ultra” and i remember when the first store opened in our area…. i would silently, and in a forest of guilt, walk by their display windows crying and wishing i could just open those doors and walk through them without a moments thought… the thousand of stolen glances i would steal hoping and praying no one saw the secret in my eyes…. today i will wear the most beautiful smile and simply walk through those doors because now i can and it’s a part of being a woman that i love….  it’s these simple moments that i hold so dear in my new life and there are simply no words that can express this joy… 

but today i know, and i hope i never forget that all this took time and patience… early in my transition, presenting myself in my desired gender was so hard…. a man of 66 years simply doesn’t, in a blink of an eye, appear feminine… what i felt in my heart i knew others couldn’t see in my reflection…. how many times i prayed that i could just silently bleed into this world as the woman i was trying to be… people will never realize the thousand of eyes that i looked at, that any transgender will look at, hoping and praying they know not our secret…. even today, at times i find myself looking at a girl walking by…. there’s an innocence and a sense of freedom that i still struggle to hold and it’s in these broken minutes that my heart knows that yes i am a woman but unlike you i am trans…. these are the moments that the cis-gendered world is totally unaware of… how these moments still break our hearts or at least mine 

i smile as i think of the endless hours that i stood in front of mirrors practicing a whole new body language… i had to master those movements because if i didn’t, i knew the whole world would know my secret and i didn’t want to see the look in their eyes at that moment or feel the pain in my heart again… today, so much of this is just natural, i don’t even have to think about my hand gestures or maybe how i’m sitting or standing… now it just happens and i love to believe it happens so naturally now because that is what my soul always felt… 

yet i still struggle with facial expressions that are purely feminine… were these expressions learned as those young girls were feeling the joy of being in love for the first time and were slowly learning the subtle ways to show their sexuality…. this past summer i would watch Tori, one of the dancers for Princess’s production shows, for endless hours, as she had the rare ability to express so much emotion with just a certain smile, the tilt of her head or the look in her eyes… i think that these are some of the subdued things about being female that i may never know.. 

     and just in the last 14 months of my transition i laid on an operating table for almost 30 hours… i subjected my body to the trauma and risk of all those hours of surgery for what…..   was the reflection i saw in a mirror that painful that i was willing to endure 4 different facial procedures… a complete gender reassignment and a breast augmentation..

the answer without a doubt is yes….

the proof can simply be seen in how i felt this past summer……  once again i was aboard the Grand Princess working as the ship’s Alaskan Naturalist, and thought out the summer i stood before literally thousands of people giving my talks…. i was engaged in countless one on one conversations with passengers and appeared frequently on the ship’s televised Morning Wake Show…. and for the first time in my transition i felt such an incredible sense of being the woman i always dreamed i wanted to be…. how many times did i stand in front of a mirror and just smile… i felt not only confident in my role of being a woman, but more importantly it just felt very relaxed, natural and comfortable… yes my first summer working as the Alaskan Naturalist after all my surgeries and my gender reassignment proved to me all those surgeries were well worth it…

and my year ended with me standing in a classroom being the teacher i always dreamt of being… for my whole teaching career, of over 30 years, i always wondered what it would be like to have my own classroom as Ms. T….. was it the daily interaction with “my” students or  colleagues, yes that was definitely a huge part that brought me this unbelievable joy, but was it just simply dressing everyday and going to work as the woman i always wanted to be…. and for the four weeks i stood in front of that classroom i really believe, to all my students, i was just another a female teacher… yes, some of them had to know my secret, and i often wondered if i was being “read” and by whom… these are the little things of “being transgender” that i think i will always have to fight but the happiness i felt every single moment during that month was worth those minutes that i fought my demons…

so was 2018 a good year?  to answer that just look at that photo i took the morning of my gender reassignment surgery… that smile will tell you it was a beautiful year filled with incredible happiness and dreams fulfilled

tess julianna   

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